Straight hit vs circular movement

ihavelostmykeys

New Member
Hi there, I recently bough my first drum set and I'd like to start to learn properly. For the past 15 years I learned a lot by lap clapping, air drumming and sneaking behind set when drummer was having a cigarette, so I'm quite ahead with independence and playing different rhythms in relation to technique itself. I noticed I can play with my right hand significantly harder, faster and more consistently than with my left hand. One big difference I can see is that when playing on snare, my left hand does that circular motion when striking / bouncing while right one bounces pretty much straight up. Surprisingly I find it very difficult to strike like that even once with my left hand, twice in a row is a miracle. This happens when blasting from behind my ear as well as barely kissing the drum from just an inch away. The first thing I did after kit purchase was to sign up for a lesson, just 1 off to have someone check my initial technique and give me some tips. Surprisingly, the man was having that circular motion in his both hands when playing fast, and he said there's nothing wrong with the way I hold sticks or hit. Internet is full of educational material but I haven't found a single mention about this issue. Obviously, it matters only on snare drum and floor tom eventually but still, and so my question is how important is to strike perfectly straight down? Is that something I should work on and eliminate before I move on to more advanced stuff (double, triple strikes, paradiddles etc), or will it just stop to play a role with my general skills going up?
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry" - Administrator
Staff member
One man's opinion:

The shortest distance between 2 points is not a circular route.

Here's my take which could be totally off:

The guy never addressed it in himself. To say that you're holding it fine, means he doesn't know how to address it. Yes you can play drums that way. Is it the best way? I'd say not even close, a beautiful straight line stroke is the best way, IMO. It sounds like he's saying to a beginner, your technique isn't that important, it doesn't matter. Which I vehemently disagree with. It most certainly does matter and the choices you make now will define your future technique for better or for worse.

There are many ways to strike a drum. I'd say that you have to develop your initial technique with someone who specializes in technique.

Bill Bachman does Skype lessons here. He is the technique Guru and has great results. My suggestion is get a good technique guy now, and dig deep now, rather than later. Time to challenge yourself technically and getting the proper guidance for your hand technique.

I always thought a good technique was job one.
 

JimmyM

Gold Member
One man's opinion:

The shortest distance between 2 points is not a circular route.

Here's my take which could be totally off:

The guy never addressed it in himself. To say that you're holding it fine, means he doesn't know how to address it. Yes you can play drums that way. Is it the best way? I'd say not even close, a beautiful straight line stroke is the best way, IMO. It sounds like he's saying to a beginner, your technique isn't that important, it doesn't matter. Which I vehemently disagree with. It most certainly does matter and the choices you make now will define your future technique for better or for worse.

There are many ways to strike a drum. I'd say that you have to develop your initial technique with someone who specializes in technique.

Bill Bachman does Skype lessons here. He is the technique Guru and has great results. My suggestion is get a good technique guy now, and dig deep now, rather than later. Time to challenge yourself technically and getting the proper guidance for your hand technique.

I always thought a good technique was job one.
Playing the music right is more important to me IMHO, but technique will certainly keep you playing much longer and keep you as pain free as possible, so darn skippy I prioritize it! Might as well start good habits early.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry" - Administrator
Staff member
I'm a big proponent of technique first. It's a very polarizing subject with lots of opinions. In my mind, if the student can initially handle the hard work that technique practice forces, I think the rest will fall into place. Like Jimmy said, start good habits NOW. Good technique will get you past the difficult parts a lot easier than without, for sure.. Also, learn to read NOW however you can.

I think most people don't have a problem with what they want to play, I think they have more of a problem with how to play properly and most important, efficiently. The how to me is Job One. Circular strokes are good for whipped cream rolls. I can't think of any other application, but that's just me. Generally speaking though shortest distance between two points is the way I practice. When I perform, I am not thinking about technique. That's a practice exercise only. The goal is that the practice work will naturally carry over into performing. I perform from a "feel don't think" place.
I practice from a "think" space.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
It's generally not thought to be good technique. You don't have to stop everything else, but you should be correcting it.

Probably spend some time in front of a mirror practicing something simple, like the first few exercises in Stick Control, and see what adjustments you have to do to get a straight up and down motion. Copy what people's hands look like in snare drum videos from the Vic Firth company-- those will reliably have good mainstream snare drum technique in them. A real teacher would be best.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry" - Administrator
Staff member
I helped solve this issue within myself by simply observing my dominant hand (which I was happy with) and trying to replicate the same exact movement using the same exact muscles, on my weak hand. Matched grip obviously. If you play traditional grip, disregard.
 

ColdFusion

Active Member
Matched grip obviously. If you play traditional grip, disregard.
I think Larry's advice is the right advice in this case. OP did say he was "blasting from behind his ear," so I'm supposin' matched grip.

Is that something I should work on and eliminate before I move on to more advanced stuff (double, triple strikes, paradiddles etc), or will it just stop to play a role with my general skills going up?
Like Todd said, you certainly don't have to stop practicing in general just because you notice one thing amiss. This is actually a pretty common meltdown drummers have when they notice one of their own bad habits. If you get too into your head about your foibles, even things like bad posture, it can divert your mood away from music, and cause you to have shorter practice sessions.

When I was starting out, I had a drum teacher dismiss one of my specific questions like 'it probably doesn't matter yet'.
I can see how this is a well debated issue. Bad habits can go unaddressed and become issues later on. However, if a beginner obsesses too much about the niceties of technique, he may not even put in the hours needed to fall in love with the instrument.

or will it just stop to play a role with my general skills going up?
Yes, actually you can go ahead and get pretty decent sounding, even with unaddressed circles flying everywhere. The reason I recommend addressing it later is that once you are already pretty good at striking and keeping time, it will be easier to just stiffen up those hands a little to keep the downstroke looking straight.

FWIW, I did keep track of the sloppiness in my off hand, as I progressed with my rudimental playing.
It does get better if you are at least a little mindful while you are practicing. My own circular movements are limited now to the upstroke on my offhand when I'm playing fast paradiddles.
There's something about unlocking the fulcrum of the off-hand for that 'double bounce' that causes a little sloppiness in the return stroke. You can see it pretty clearly if you look straight down at your sticks.

But as far as "what I would do in this situation", I'll add my own 0.02, a little mantra. Just a way of looking at it.
If you measure your improvement by nothing else, these two things: How musical you sound, and how relaxed you feel.
It would be interesting if we could hear a sample of that drum teacher playing with his circular motions. You did say it was while he was playing fast. Keeping straight lines while playing fast seems to be the very last thing that needs to be addressed, at least IME.
 
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mrfingers

Senior Member
After 10 yrs I’m still battling the same issue. (Played trad before and developed carpal tunnel and bruised bones in my left hand ring finger and TIA stroke so decided to learn matched grip to counter all of this.)
First let me say trad grip did not make my left hand play egg beater style matched grip.
Second, matching my right strokes was/ls difficult since I’d spent 60 yrs as an artist, drawing and painting, developing all kinds of small muscle control that could only be matched by similar activity for 60 more yrs, using my left hand!
Trad grip meant never having to “say I’m sorry” for not copying my right hand grip. I could concentrate on my trad grip easily.
Third, I had never used a hammer in my left hand so striking a nail(small target) straight down was new to my left wrist and fingers.
As a result my fingers, although gripping the stick correctly, would “kick” the stick on rebound strokes away from the palm of my hand, which caused my hand to correct my aim with that swirling motion. So much for a loose, preferred grip, right?
Anyway, if I hold the butt more securely with my pinky, there’s less swirling stick movement. Sometimes my pointer finger lays along the stick to keep movement straighter too. Now I practice rudiments at medium speed, making sure of the perpendicular stick strokes. Also single left hand triples, quads, etc. concentrating on how the stick hits the pad. Making sure I can feel the tip of the stick striking correctly( eyes closed or looking away for more sense of the feel of the stroke.) Staring at a mirror while practicing worked initially, but who plays that way?
You may have to make small corrections,not exactly copying your right’s grip, because of physical differences, etc.. Anyway know you’re not alone in this pursuit of perfection.
 

moodman

Well-known Member
Other than a press roll, I just use a circular stoke on the ride when playing swing with just 1/4 notes, thinking of the circle as 3 8ths.
 
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GetAgrippa

Diamond Member
Oddly my right stronger hand was doing this a few months ago with doubles- I worked on French a bit to get my linear feel then American and worked on straightening it out. It’s always something because I’d been focusing on left weaker hand which I think is now stronger than right. You really have to keep it all up.
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
If you want your hands to do the same you use the one doing it right to teach the other.

The neuances here not something I'll get into unnless I see you play.

If you can play somewhat there's no reason to wait with doubles and paradiddles. Just do them slowly. Technique will vary on speed an many other things, so there's not one way. There's not even one propper technique. There is however a physical concept of good technique that encompasses most of it.

We will always have to fix and certainly refine things as we develop, but unless very unmotivated to do so, it's a good idea to avoid the traps as much as you can and try your best to do it correctly to start.
 

LittleLegs

Senior Member
This may have nothing to do with your situation so apologies: I’m a drummer first and foremost, but also a singer and I was in a band with a drummer with a very circular left hand. His snare drum never sounded as decisive as you’d expect and that was the reason - his stick glanced off the surface of the head. It looked like he was almost conducting with his left hand, not intentionally, but it waved around a little between strikes. I don’t know if it was in response to the music, a way of time keeping, or a sympatheic reaction to his right hand playing in between snare strikes. (I’ve seen that before with new drummers - the limbs aren’t independent of each other yet and so the left hand sort of pulses in the air involuntarily when the the right is active.) Does this make any sense?
 

Square

Active Member
I won’t pretend to be qualified to address your stroke issues. I will say that for my own playing, and I started very late in life, I don’t accept anything as default.

What I mean is that I do what I do, but when I question a technique or habit that may be done better or differently, I learn it.

I want each aspect of my playing to be a choice, not just “the way I do it”.

Slow and steady wins the race.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
Hi there, I recently bough my first drum set and I'd like to start to learn properly. For the past 15 years I learned a lot by [...] sneaking behind set when drummer was having a cigarette...

I hope you are kidding. If you are, then ha ha!

If not, you're gonna get yourself killed. When I'm gigging, there are three things NO ONE from the audience touches - my wife, my kids, or my drum set.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Diamond Member
it would help to see videos or even just pics of you playing. but iit sounds to me like you are not using your wrist in the most efficient way.

are you playing with thumb pointing up (French Grip), palm of hand facing down (American/German grip)?


the rotation, or circular motion you are talking about is what I see a lot in people who are playing with a French style grip, but one that is sort of "untrained" or undefined

and to add to what @larryace has been saying, you want to nail down and practice technique, so that at a gig, you can then NOT have to think about it while you are playing. It will become muscle memory.
 
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